A 3D printer being used by U.S. Marines to manufacture various equipment when needed quickly. Photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/U.S. Marine Corps
Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine Corps infantry battalion has become the first unit in the Corps to possess a 3D printer, using it to printing various pieces of equipment.
The U.S. Marines said the unit is the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejuene, N.C., which has been testing how the system can be employed in various theoretical situations in the field.
"We're at the tip of the iceberg as to what capabilities this can bring," Capt. Justin Carrasco, the logistics officer for the battalion, said in a press release. "So right now, we're identifying different 3D-printed parts that can support the warfighter in the expeditionary environment."
The battalion has been testing the use of 3D printing through facility upgrades and temporary fixes to problems. For example, it can be used to replace the front-sight post on a light anti-armor weapon trainer, a gas cap for a vehicle, hand-guards and signs.
The Marines said the regular process to receive these items requires a work request to go through a chain of facilities and could take from two weeks to six months to receive the items. The Marines can now have operational equipment within 48 hours through the use of 3D printers.
When we talk about readiness, this is the future of the force," said Lt. Col. Dan Gaskell, 2/8 Battalion Commander. "The ability to create something from nothing in an expeditionary environment has endless capabilities."
The U.S. Marine Corps recently tested small 3D-printed drones developed by the Army Research Laboratory.